Another Veterans Day ebbs into history. Across the world, veterans, their families, and ordinary people took a moment or more to remember those who served their countries. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, people stood silent. This is how Veterans, or Remembrance, Day was commemorated around the world.
Among thousand others, Princes Charles, Prime Minister Theresa May, and Secretary of Defence Gavin Williamson laid a wreath and paid their respects at the Cenotaph in London. The Cenotaph was erected in 1920 to commemorate the service and sacrifices of those who perished in the First World War. Thousands of civilians and former and current servicemen attended the ceremony and held a two-minute silence. For the first time, a German political leader attended the ceremony. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier laid a wreath on behalf of his nation as an act of reconciliation between the two nations that were at the forefront of the two World Wars. Meanwhile, the Tower of London was covered in poppies.
In Northern Ireland, a moving ceremony took place on the battlements of the Enniskillen Castle. At the break of dawn, a lone piper played the When The Battle’s O’er tune, a poignant retreat song. Thereafter The Last Post was played with the same bugle that the 36th Ulster Division used on its charge on the first day of the Battle of Somme.
Leaders from more than 70 countries, to include U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, congregated in Paris to commemorate Veterans Day. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, the luminaries marched to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is housed under the famous Arc de Triomphe, and paid their respects.
In a separate ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a plaque that signifies the eternal reconciliation between Europe’s two pillars of power.
Thousands of politicians, servicemen, and civilians flocked to the National War Memorial in Canberra to remember the nation’s veterans. During the service, an aircraft dropped thousands of small red paper poppies.
At the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, thousands of New Zealanders gathered to honour their nation’s servicemen. After a poignant service and a minute’s silence, a 100-gun salute thundered the ground as thousands of white poppies were released in the wind.
There is perhaps a no better way to mark the day than by the poem of Lt. Col. John McCrea, a Canadian military doctor who served in Flanders during WWI. In 1915, after a close friend of his perished in a German artillery shell explosion, McCrea wrote the now famous poem to ensure his comrade’s memory would remain alive:
In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.